With Anna Hazare set to make electoral reforms his next big initiative after the lokpal bill, the government has made a move to beat him at it.
The law ministry has finalised three key amendments to the law governing elections and has rejected the parliamentary panel's objections on controversial issues.One of the proposed changes in the Representation of People's Act is a political hot potato - disallowing candidates charged with criminal offences punishable with a prison term of five years or more from contesting elections.
However, this provision won't apply in cases where "charges were framed in less than a year from the date of filing nominations", the draft bill says.
Asked if this proposal directly contradicted the 2007 recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice, a senior law ministry official said, "The parliamentary committee had raised the issue of candidates belonging to opposition parties being framed by the party in power on false and mala fide charges."
Citing provisions in the draft bill that sufficiently safeguard against politically-motivated charges, the official said, "If candidates feel charges have been wrongly framed, they may move the concerned high court, which will refer the matter to a special tribunal or court for disposal within 15 days."
"If the special court/tribunal decides the charges framed by a competent court were politically motivated, then the candidate shall be qualified for contesting elections."
The parliamentary panel had stated "There is a lurking fear of the course of prosecution being influenced by the party in power and mere framing of charges would deprive a candidate of his right to contest elections, which will directly benefit the opponents."
It had also drawn the government's attention to the opposition by political parties to this proposal.
The second proposed amendment makes it mandatory for poll candidates, their parties and functionaries to submit their accounts audited by an agency authorised by the comptroller and auditor general.
The third change is to provide state funding for women, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates of recognised parties, which was first reported by HT on Monday.